Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Now We Know

In an extremely funny, strange turn of events - (to give you the Reader's Digest version) - after being home only 3 weeks, our name was accidentally "matched" with a little 2 year old boy in North China and we were sent an email grandly stating "Congratulations Jay and Camille Lancaster......You have received the referral of XXXXXX" (name withheld).  Attached were pictures of this adorable little boy who has the same hearing impairment as Lori (that's where part of the mix-up started).  The person who accidentally sent the email to us called apologizing.  It was really funny and we laughed it off and made jokes about them being really quick to get us back in the adoption game.  Ha, Ha, Ha. 

However, no matter how funny that was - the sad reality is that now we know about an adorable little boy who has the same diagnosis as our Lori who is sitting in North China without a family.   Now.....that's not so funny. 

I am posting this to ask, beg, plead with our Bloggy friends to spread the word about this little guy - we'll call him CZ.  If you or anyone you know is interested in getting more info on CZ and being his Family - please contact me and I'll put you in touch with the right person.  At the very least - Pray!  Commit to being his Prayer Parent and pray intensely that he is matched soon with his Momma & his Daddy and that he can get the treatments he needs.    Now we know and now you know, too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sharing and Caring

We had a great time sharing Lori's Story at church last night.  The best way to break down the fears and apprehension associated with adoption is just to candidly tell our story.  We are just normal, regular, average, working-class people who didn't know the first thing about starting an adoption - or how in the world we were going to pay for it!!  However, by God's grace, here we are on the other side - with a new daughter who has really black hair, olive skin, and slanty eyes.  But she's ours and we love her.  Now that we are home - it's like she's always been here.  This is our new normal.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

'Ears What We Found Out

Yesterday was our much anticipated trip to CID in St Louis.  The Institute is on the same campus as Children's Hospital and Barnes Jewish.   We were warmly welcomed and the staff was great.  They took us into the Examination room and performed several hearing tests - they blew air into her ear, listen to sounds in a soundproof booth, wear ear phones and listen to varying pitches and volumes, listen to music, localize sounds, feel vibrations, etc.  She was pretty cooperative (esp. for a 2 year old!) and they appeared happy with the reliability of the results.

Upon completion of the battery of tests - they confirmed what we expected.  Lori has a profound hearing loss and there isn't going to be a "quick fix".  They did notice some ear issues - like a really small ear canal on one side and excessive wax build-up - but they had no reason to think that this would be the cause of the hearing loss.

They recommended trying powerful hearing aids for a few months to see if she could pick up some sounds and maybe develop a bit of language.  If the results from the use of HA is not sufficient - they thought the next step would be Cochlear Implants.  To be honest - in my heart of hearts - I feel that the HA won't give her the results she need and that she will be a CI kid.  The neat thing about going to CID is that they have a school on-site and yesterday we saw many kiddos with CI who were talking, listening, following directions, etc. and seemed to be responding nicely to the technology.  As her new momma - this is what I hope for Lori. 

They took ear molds while we were there and the kids got to pick the color (yes, pediatric hearing aids come in all sorts of colors - you can even get glitter!).  Annie and Chloe decided on Hot Pink.  So, the next time some of you see Lori - check out the Hot Pink hearing aids.  If that's not enough to draw attention to her disability - I don't know what is!  They might as well add flashing lights!!!  Poor kid......

The next step -
We have been in contact with her Pediatrician and local ENT to clear up the wax issues.  Next, we are being referred to the CI Team at Children's Hospital to get a consult on Cochlear Implants.  On April 13 - we go back to CID for them to fit and program the hearing aids.  We will probably go back 1x/month for quite a while.  They offered to enroll her in their PreK program starting this Fall - but it would require me to drive up 2-3 times a week - and I honestly just don't see that happening.  So, we will work diligently with the Hearing Impaired Team from First Steps for Southeast MO and learn all we can about raising a HI girlie.  Should be lots of fun around the Lancaster House for the next few months!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Whole Month

As of today - we have had Lori for exactly 1 month.  On Feb 22 - our lives changed forever.  On March 22 - we are all adjusting just fine.  How would you be if one month ago, a group of Chinese strangers came and took you away from everything you had ever known??  When you think about it like that - the fact that she is laughing with her sister in the background behind me right now seems like an amazing transition on her behalf. 

Tomorrow, we go to St Louis' Central Institute for the Deaf.  She will have a full audiological evaluation and they will determine Lori's type and severity of hearing loss.  Pray for great news!  We are so hopeful that there are some great options for her.  Or, better yet, complete - miraculous healing!!

On a different note - the story of Lori's Linens is going to be included in a new book coming out featuring Adoption Fundraising.  How exciting!  The author is Julie Gumm and I'll keep our bloggy friends updated.

In case you are interested - this Sunday night at 7:00 - we will be recounting our entire Adoption Journey at Trinity Baptist Church.  If you've read our blog since the beginning - you've heard it all - but if not, please come and listen. 

I was thinking this week about how our family has changed.  Forever.  In a good way - but it feels weird.  Going from 5 to 6 kids has been a breeze.  Really, after 3 - its really not a big difference.  Once outnumbered - always outnumbered.  After 3, someone always stands the chance of getting left behind at the gas station bathroom (remember the old Brady Bunch episode?)

What I mean is that I just can't shake what I saw I China.  I just can't stop thinking about those babies who have no one.  Sure, they have caretakers - really good ones - but no one who calls themselves Mom or Dad.  No one to see them through this messy thing called "life" (except Jesus, or course - but you know what I mean).  I feel like I should be doing more.  I feel like I should already be filling out the paperwork for the next adoption.  I feel like I should be booking my next flight to China.  I feel like I should be the voice for these sweet babies and help find them a home.  I sense a change in our home.  Jay keeps talking about what to do.  Madison keeps talking about what to do.  The little kids talk about the next baby and whether they want a brother or a sister.  When did we become so cRaZy about adoption, and orphans, and raising money, and taking international trips, and Chinese food - I bought a whole bunch of rice at the grocery store today!  Why?  Because I left a piece of my heart in China and I am trying to feel connected to that beautiful country the best way I know how.  I do not know if I will ever return, or when, or how, etc.......but the smell of rice, the sight of Chinese symbols, the thought of Hutongs, and the touch of my little Asain baby bring me back.  Back to the moments that changed us forever.  I wonder often what time it is in China. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our First Week Home

We were just about to readjust from the jet lag and ran smack dab into Daylight Savings Time.   We are so ready to get our body clocks back on track.  We......are.......soooooooo.......tired.............zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Lori has done great.  She has improved everyday and is fitting right in.  She still prefers the kids to the adults - but can you really blame her?  They are way more fun and rarely say no.  Smart kid!

She had her first Pediatrician appt., made 2 appearances at church, 2 trips to Wal-Mart, 1 trip to McD, 1 trip to the Video Store, went bowling, and even went to Homeschool Co-op. 

Today, the First Steps coordinator came to the house and enrolled her into the program.  Missouri First Steps helps provides specialized services for children 0-3 who need things like - Speech Tx, PT, OT, etc.  Lori will go to Central Institute for the Deaf on Mar 23 for  a full audiological evaluation and then we will work with First Steps to determine the level of intervention she needs.  We'll keep you posted.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You can take the girl outta China, but you can't take China outta the girl!

During supper, she spotted some chopsticks we brought back from our trip.  She insisted on using them to feed herself.

Once an Orphan

As of today, Lori has officially been part of our family for 2 weeks.  She was once an orphan - but now she is our daughter.  2 weeks ago - we sat in a Civil Affairs office in China and signed several papers with our names and our fingerprint in red ink.  How fitting that they had us sign in red.  It reminds me that Christ brought me into His family with red, also - but it wasn't ink - it was His precious blood.  Several things about this adoption have been such humble reminders that we were once orphans - but have now been adopted into the family of God.

Since being home, we have kept up with other families through their blogs.  Some have had immediate bonding with their new kiddos - others have had a bumpy road.  I've been reading stories of how some children reject their new parents, buck against any discipline, or assert themselves through power struggles - not realizing their life ahead is a miraculous new beginning after life as an orphan.  Again, another picture of our lives with Christ.  It reminds me of how sometimes we see Him as the best thing since sliced bread - especially when things are going our way.  But when God steps in with discipline or asks us to change - even if the life He has ahead of us is so much better than our current situation - don't we buck and struggle?  I know I do by pouting, worrying, doubting, crying, asserting my will, etc, etc, etc.  Like these precious kiddos I've seen the last few weeks - we just can't relax and rest in His sovereignty - we fall back into our old ways and hold on with all our might to our comforts - even if they aren't the best for us.  It reminds me of the man in Scripture who cries out for God to heal him from his unbelief.  Lord, heal us from our doubting spirit!

The other thing that these last 2 weeks has taught me is that transition is hard.  In these times when we've just tried to be obedient and follow through with what God has asked us to do - we've had to endure exhausting travel, sleepless nights, brutal jet lag, and raw emotions.  Yet, even this morning as I put Lori in the car to pick up the boys from school, as she was crying because she still isn't crazy about me, as I was struggling with my parenting skills, I turned on the radio and God was playing Kutless' version of Strong Tower.  How fitting - thanks, God, for that reminder!  He is our strong tower, our shelter duirng all this.  He is the everlasting King.  He is beautiful and mighty.  We don't need to worry about our own abilities - it isn't about us.  He's got this all mapped out and we just need to follow along.  Which brings me to my next point......

It isn't about us.  So many people have given us accolades of praise and told us how great we are.  We are thankful for their kind words - but truthfully, we could never have done this on our own accord.  God steered this ship the entire way.  He planted the seeds in our heart, led us to Harmony House, introduced us to Lori, provided the money, and took us safely to China and back again.  It isn't about us, never has been, and never will be.  It's all about HIM.  It is His plan, according to His purpose, to bring Him glory.  We have been able to share our faith in God so many times through this process - which constantly reminds us that it is for His glory alone.  Praise Him.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Credit for China Updates

I'm still up on Monday night, wide awake.  I try to sleep and I just can't.  It's 12:36, and I have to get up at 6am.  But in the mean time, I thought of something I need to write about.

Our first night in China, I sat down at the desk in the hotel room and started to work on our first blog which I quickly found out, I couldn't access the blog.  I tried luck.  I found some sites that worked, but anything of a personal nature like blogs, or facebook, I could not access.  Apprarently I could have if I had a VPN, but I wasn't educated on VPNs until after we got there and discovered the problem, and China restricted access to sites of this type. 

Well, crud!  We had told so many people to follow our blog while we were gone for updates.  Now what?

Well...before we left, a dear friend and brother in Christ, who I will simply leave named as Barry, told me that he wanted to serve our family in some way while we were gone.  He expressed at least twice the week before we left.  Barry is awesome, and no matter how hard I thought about it, we couldn't come up with any way that he could serve our family while we were gone. 

After one night in China, and finding out that we were not going to be able to update anyone while we were gone, God placed an idea in our heads.  I told Barry that I had a way for him to serve our family.  Barry is a computer/blog/internet guru, and I explained our dilemma, and asked if he could post our updates while we were which he agreed without hesitation.

While we were gone, every update to this blog, and every update on Facebook was put there by him....not us.  I emailed the text and the pics, but he did the posting.  What a huge way to serve our family while we were gone. 

Barry, we love you, and we appreciate what you did for our family!  Everyone does!  And I know you don't want credit, but I just felt forgive me!

It's awesome how God put a desire in Barry to serve was clear to him that he was to do something...but we just didn't know what or when...but it quickly became obvious how he was needed.  It was just another small taste of God's sovereignty... how he had the problem solved before we ever knew it was a problem.  How awesome! 

And no glory to Barry, he was just being obedient...All Praise and Glory to our Awesome Heavenly Father!  How Great is our God!

Monday Night - At Home

(From Jay)

Unfortunately, although it's 11:40 at night here, for the third night in a row for us, it feels more like mid afternoon.  The last two days we have slept from about 4am until around 1:30 pm.  I had always heard the term jetlag, and heard stories from others that talked about how tired you are, but before this trip, I didn't really understand it or believe it.  We have learned first hand on this trip both going and coming back that this stuff is all too real.

Lori is struggling with it also.  She wants to roam at night and sleep during the day.  She has started each night in her new bed in her new room sharing with her new sister, Chloe.  But seems to get up in the 2am timeframe...which hasn't been a big deal yet, because I've been up.  Tonight, everyone is in their beds, except me, and we are all gonna try to have a 'regular' night.

It's surreal walking around the house looking at all my kids in their beds.  I went in to check on Lori a few minutes ago, and I smiled to see her asleep in her bed with her shoes on, and holding her Shee-Ya-Ya doll (a popular cartoon character in China).  The girl loves her shoes.

Today, after sleeping most of it, we just took time to be together.  We played outside some, sat around the house, played candyland, and had our first home-cooked meal and devotional as a family in over two weeks.  I didn't want it to end.

But reality is coming with a swift strong tomorrow is going to be tough.  I love my job, but its going to be tough being away from the family, and dealing with the desire to lay my head down and sleep all day!

There's been another source of reality that we're all getting used to...for the last two weeks, we have been staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, and having strangers do our laundry.  Getting home, in addition to the tiredness, and the newness of Lori, we have also re-entered the reality of not having someone to clean our room, change our sheets, clean our bathroom, cook our food, clean up and do our laundry.  I think after a couple weeks of living out of hotels and restaurants, I hate to admit we were getting a little spoiled.  I think both me and Camille were at some point today either working on laundry or dirty dishes, and said something to each other like, "where's the person who's supposed to take care of this for us?"...we both admitted after the past two weeks, we were spoiled and ready for an Alice.

So please pray for us as we re-enter reality.  We have worked for months on getting Lori here, spent two weeks going to get her, and now we are back...and learning to adapt to our new normal.   Please pray for our family, as we relearn each other, and establish our new routines.

Monday, March 7, 2011

China Trip Udpate #18 - Home At Last!

(From Jay)

After our brief adventure in Hong Kong and a good night's rest in another new bed, it was time to leave for America.  We can't help but keep thinking what Lori has to be thinking about this new crazy family.  All they do is ride around in trains and planes and subways and ferries and busses, they stay in different hotels and always eat at restaurants!  Prior to coming with us, she probably never did any of that, even, its all she's done for 12 days! 

Anyway, we packed up and made our way to the airport, which was a five minute walk.  We found our United desk and got in one of many lines for the day.  We got checked in and made our way to immigration, security and customs, and made it through fine.  We found the food court which 'appeared' to be a very short walk from the terminal, and ate some breakfast and sat down for a moment.  With not much time to spare, we headed to the terminal.

What we found out at the last moment, was that it wasn't our terminal.  The terminal we were looking for was a train ride away, and we had 11 minutes before they shut the door.  What?  Are you kidding me!  Nevertheless, we hopped on the train and took the 2 minute ride to the correct terminal.  Once there, and after two escalator rides up, we did the cliche' running through the airport, that we had jokingly commented to each other about two weeks ago when we were watching people at O'Hare.  This time it was us!  We made it to the gate with 3 minutes to spare, and boarded our dreaded yet much anticipated long flight home.

It was a much different plane this time...different from what we were expecting.  This time it was a 747, where coming over it was a 777.  This time we had three aisle seats, which are such a blessing on a long flight.  We took off, and thought everything was good.

And then...after 5-10 minutes of flight time, we hit an air pocket, and for a brief moment, the bottom dropped out of the plane!  It was bad!  Everyone screamed!  What a way to start a 14 hour flight!  It had moments of smoothness, but it will be mostly remembered as a bumpy ride with a fair share of turbulence.  Two days after hitting the ground, and we still feel like we're's weird.  But Lori did fabulous!  She was a trooper...she slept a lot, and for 99% of the trip was quiet.  God truly blessed her with a calm spirit for the long ride home.

We didn't sleep much, and what a blessing it was to finally hit the ground at O'Hare in Chicago.  We had a three hour layover, in which we needed to handle Lori's immigration, customs, and claiming and rechecking our baggage.  We had to hurry up and wait some, but we made it through everything fine...the only casualty was one of our bags didn't make it, but they said to look for it in St. Louis.

It was so great to be back in the USA!  It felt great.  Anytime you are out of the country for a spell, it feels so good to be back in the USA!  We grabbed us some good American food (Some chicago hot dogs), and sat down waiting for the last flight home.  Camille said she was more flights...she was ready to rent a car and drive home from Chicago...but the time finally came to board.

The final flight home from Chicago to St. Louis was simple and painless.  No bumps, and it was super quick...compared to the last flight.  We got to visit with some folks from Sikeston that were on the plane, that we had never met before.  Isn't life weird like that...on an airplane from Chicago to St. Louis, you sit next to people from your hometown that you've never met...And finally, we hit the ground in St. Louis....Wow! it felt great...

We made it thru the airport quickly...getting our bags...and not having to deal with immigration or customs at this point...our one missing bag didn't make it, so we had to report it, but we're home, and we'll make do!  We called our hotel shuttle, and boarded our last shuttle for a while, and made the 10 minute trip to the hotel. 

We made it to the hotel, and had the driver stop at our suburban to unload our bags, but our attention was drawn to the familiar suv that my in-laws drive, parked next to us, but empty.  As soon as we could, we walked, I think I ran, to the lobby, where I cannot express how glad I was to see my little kids...I hugged Sam, Jax, and Chloe enough times that they began to count and comment on it.  How great it felt to be reunited with our little ones!  It felt awesome!  And hats off to my inlaws who selflessly watched over the little ones while we were on our adventure.  What a blessing they were!  This was also Lori's first time to see her other brothers and sister.  They couldn't wait to see here, and just were all over her...she wasn't sure what to think...more changes!  But she will warm up in time.

After a moment to just sit and talk, we made the final boarding call, and got all 8 of us into our blue suburban for the first time.  All of our crew in one felt surreal.  We got all in place and made the final 2 1/2 trip home. 

I must admit, it was awkward driving home.  I had not driven in over two weeks, and the driving I had become used to in China was I was still feeling queasy and weird from the flights.  Plus, although it was 6pm here, we were still on China time, so it was 1 or 2 in the morning to us...and it felt like it...but we trodded off.

We did have one major stop to make...once we got South of the main city, we had to make a quick stop!  Several dear friends from church had made the trip up to see us at the airport or hotel.  Due to our unpredictable schedule, however, they were not there when we arrived.  So we met up with them around Herculaneum.  When we drove up they had a banner sign we had to drive through like a football team taking the field.  They had balloons, and big smiles ready to see us.  Although it was freezing cold outside, we all got out and hugged and laughed and enjoyed the homecoming!  What a blessing it was!  Their welcome was incredibly appreciated!  I wish we could have stayed a while and talked, but the time came to move on.

After the sleepy trip home, we were met with visits from family and friends.  How great it was to walk into our home...all of us!  We just chunked our suitcases and sat around holding our kids and reminiscing the trip with each other and our visitors.  Lori quickly warmed up to her brothers and Chloe, and even sat in Sam's lap and cried when someone tried to get her out of his lap. 

Our challenge now is getting back to Sikeston time.  We our all wide awake now, despite it being late.  We got little-bit in her new room, and she seems to like it, although she definitely is messed up time-wise and didnt' want to go to bed.  Several of us were up to almost 2am, and found ourselves in bed Sunday morning until around 1:30 that afternoon. 

But the point is...we are home, all eight of us...and all is well.  We still have lots of adjusting, and please pray that these adjustments move along smoothly and quickly, but Praise Jesus for a blessed adventure to China, and for us now being back home with our new little bundle of joy...May God bless our home and  yours with peace and grace.  And thanks for walking this journey with us!

China Update #17 - Hong Kong

(From Jay)

We Made It To Hong Kong!  We are now one step closer to home.

Unfortunately, Guangzhou doesn't tend to have many international flights, so one of the main options adoption families take is to ride the train to Hong Kong and fly out of Hong Kong's international airport.  Its not that we were wanting to tour Hong was a means to an end.

We arrived in Hong Kong around 2:30...found our guide, and took a 40 minute van ride to our hotel located next door to the airport.  It was an interesting ride.  The train station was downtown Kowloon, so we got to see some of the downtown area on the east side of Kowloon.  We had to hop a view islands to get to Lantau Island.  The terrain was beautiful.  There were mountains, ocean, and high rise buildings everywhere. 

The other thing you could help noticing was the vast amount of ocean traffic and shipyards handling importing and exporting.  I didn't snap any great photos, but it was hard to take in the amount and size of the containers stacked everywhere on ships.

Another treat that I admit shows the nerd side of me was that we got to go over the Tsing Ma bridge...which was a surprise to me until right before we approached it on the way to the hotel.  It's the 7th longest suspension bridge in the give some scale...its over 300 ft longer than the Golden Gate Bridge (which is #9).

After checking into our hotel that was literally connected to the airport, we walked over and hopped an express train to Hong Kong Island.  We weren't sure what to expect...we had not prepared ourself for Hong Kong...we just thought it would be cool to walk in the city before we left.

Twenty-Four minutes later we got off of the train, and walked north beside the tallest building I had ever seen before.  We made our way north to the harbor and hopped on a Star Ferry for a total cost of about $3 for all of us.  We took the 10 minute ride across the sea marveling at the skyline on both sides.  Hong Kong was WAY bigger and crazier than we had imagined.  Camille and I went to New York City once on an uncrowded weekend nine years ago...but to hit downtown Hong Kong on what appeared to be a crazy weekend on a Friday night at about was NUTS!  Camille and the girls were terrified!  There were so many people...of all shapes and sizes and colors and languages.  I was overwhelming.  Our desire to walk around for a few hours, was quickly reduced to...well, let's walk around for a few minutes, grab a quick american-type supper, and get back to the hotel!  So that's what we did...we ate at a Chicago Grill at Harbor City (the biggest mall I've ever seen), and then rode the ferry back across and rode the train back to the hotel.  So much for us being adventurers!  Tomorrow, we fly out for America! 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

China Update #16 - En Route to Hong Kong

(Hey Everyone...Sorry for the lack of updates.  We hit Hong Kong and to our surprise couldn't find western plug-ins or reliable internet, so we were computer less for a couple days.  So I'm going back in time to post the posts we wrote along the way) - From Jay

It’s weird. I’m sitting in my seat on a train bound for Hong Kong. I never thought I’d say that. It’s really nice. The ride is much smoother than I imagined it to be. It’s an express train between Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

And we survived the station in Guangzhou! I must confess that I was a little worried. The staff at the hotel went on and on about how crazy it was, and how we would have to go here and here and there…and then push ourselves into the train…it really sounded intimidating…but it really wasn’t bad at all. Our guide walked us into the station right through security and to the first waiting area. We paid to check a few bags to make it easier lugging our luggage plus Lori and a stroller through the station. It was a relief to see other adopting Americans at the waiting area.

After a brief wait, we shoved and pushed our way into line and had our tickets punched and made it to immigration. We all got our passports stamped, including little-bit who I had to hold while the officer looked over her papers and snapped a digital photo. She still prefers Maddie & Annie so I had to do my best holding a greased pig impression at the Chinese immigration counter smiling and appearing calm while others watched.

We then made it through customs with no issues, and made it to a second waiting area. It felt so much like an airport…not what I expected a train station to be like. Once they told us to get in line, we shoved and pushed into the line. (Here I need to explain something. In China, there is little hospitality…like ‘you go first’ stuff…instead, when it’s time to get in line or get on an elevator…it’s survival of the fittest…you push your way in growling while you do…this was a change for us...our Chinese guides all told us you would have to do this…it was very uncomfortable…in two or three places, people would just cut in front of me…and I was told they would, unless I scolded them back. When we were at the airport in Shijiazhuang, while we were waiting at the ticket counter, we had one man come up and try to bully his way in…and our guide scolded them back…a very different culture compared to our southern hospitality). So, you see, it was important to push our way on because of our carry-on luggage. We were told that the train had very little room for luggage, so if you didn’t get there early, you would be riding the two hour trip with a suitcase in your lap.

Turned out that by us changing our tickets to the earlier train (noon rather than the 6pm train), we only were at about 60-70% of train capacity. There was still room to spare. The train consisted of two seats on either side with a center aisle. There was lots of seat room, much more than the planes. Some of the seats faced forward, and some faced backward, and every once in a while you would have two facing each other with a table in between…that was where we sat…Camille and Annie faced Maddie and Lori, and I sat next to them in a similar setup by myself.

On the trip it seemed like we never really got out of a city. There were less big buildings, but there was never a time when we did not see some. I really thought I would see some agriculture on the trip, but very little. There were a handful of small farms consisting of a few acres with what looked more like large gardens. There do not seem to be any large farms with acres of crops. There are also lots of mountains to our left and right. We will see two or three and then none for a while…and then they pop up again. The main thing is lots and lots of buildings…that appear run down.

I’m expecting Hong Kong to feel different. Because of the British influence, I am expecting it to be cleaner, and have buildings in better shape. It’s 1:15 here, and in about an hour, we will be departing our train at Hung Hom station in the downtown area of Kowloon, right in the heart of Hong Kong. It sounds like an amazing place. We are supposed to have a guide picking us up at the station and take us the 30-45 minute ride to the hotel which is to the west on its own island. We are hopeful, that once settled in at the hotel that we might be able to hop on the high speed train at the airport and make it back into to downtown Hong Kong, just to look around. We want to try to make it down to Victoria Harbor, ride on the Star Ferry (that’s about 35 cents per ticket) and walk around the market areas. We have heard tales of anything from exotic bird markets to fish markets to flower markets to all kinds of things. I just think that while we are in Hong Kong, we ought to at least try to walk around the downtown area for a little bit.

That’s it for now. Later this evening after we get into the hotel after hopefully exploring Hong Kong, we will fire off another post…

Bloggy Families we met in China

We met some amazing families in China.  To read more about their adoption stories - here are some links to their blogs.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

China Update #15 - On our way to Hong Kong

(from Jay)

As I write this, it's supper time back home (6 pm) on Thursday, but here its 8 am on Friday morning. I just can't get used to that. Last night we went to the Swan Room and said our goodbyes like Camille said in our previous post. Then we started the chore of repacking for the journey home.

Here's a sneak peak of what we're in for 10:45 am, we head to the huge Guangzhou train station, where we have to go through customs, check bags like an airport and find and hop on a double decker train headed for Hong Kong. I won't go into the history, but Hong Kong is still treated as something separate from China, so you have to go through customs, and technically, leave China.

This was found out the hard way by a couple down the hall the other morning. We saw them putting their luggage back into their room here at the hotel in Guangzhou. I asked what was wrong, and they found out that they were headed to Hong Kong to the airport (like us) but their flight had them connecting back in Beijing before flying to the United States...but because they only had a single entry visa to China, they needed a new visa, because upon reaching Hong Kong, they leave they were having to check back in and get a new would stink.

I'll be honest, I'm a little nervous about the train station. So, please pray that it goes smooothly.

We'll reach Hong Kong around 2pm, and a guide is supposed to pick us up at the train station and get us to our hotel. Here's a map of the Hong Kong Regal Airport connects to the airport, which is on its own island...its crazy!

View Larger Map

Since we are getting into Hong Kong at 2pm instead of the originally planned 8:30pm, I really hope we can squeeze in a moment to walk around downtown and ride the star ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong (search hong kong star ferry on google maps), but we may be beat when we get there...

So keep us in your prayers as we finish up our business here in Guangzhou and manuever the train station with all of our luggage. I'm sure today will be an adventure...

China Update #14 - A Bittersweet Day

Well, it's our last nite in China and we are packing up. We are anxious to come home and kiss our babies and sleep in our bed - but our time here has been full of emotions that are hard to let go of. It was on Chinese soil that we first met our daughter - and that we will never forget. We have also spent the last week with many amazing families and we know that (sadly) we will probably never see them again. So, like most of the chocolate here - today has been bittersweet. Lots of good byes to new friends who are now more like family - and lots of hellos to the new life ahead for these precious orphans we have held in our arms this week.

Another group of people we met this week are the Chinese Believers who live and work here on the island. They are full of joy and hope and have found new life in Christ. Once they found out that we shared a Father - they were so eager to talk to us and ask us to pray for them. They struggle with families who follow local religions and who don't support their way of life. They need and want our prayers and have asked that we keep up with them through email. A few of them took our picture to keep as a reminder of our visits this week. I wanted to extend their prayer requests to our blog/email readers. Please pray for the Christians in China. They need courage to face their families, strength to spread the gospel, and hope for the future of their country.

I hope this week is just the beginning of many friendships. This has been an unforgettable adventure......and we look forward to coming back some day.

BTW - Lori got her Visa today. This is the final piece of the puzzle. We have been waiting for this because now she has permission to leave the country and enter US soil. See ya soon!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

China Update #13

(From Jay)


One thing that we have had a huge challenge with regarding Lori is her eating. Despite being told that the girl loved to eat, for seven days we felt lucky if we were able to get her to eat her 'hash' (from a previous post) twice a day.

We knew it was a power trip for her...the one thing she could control, so we were just prayerful and hopeful that time would heal that issue. of Tuesday evening, the problem has been resolved...the girl found her appetite! Wednesday at our late breakfast and our early supper the girl ate and ate. And honestly seems happier because of it! We guess she finally thought to herself, "well I guess these people aren't gonna take me back, so I might as well eat!". It feels great seeing her get more comfortable with us each day.

It's funny how she is, so everyone can be forewarned. In our room, with just us, she smiles and plays (she still doesn't like me or Camille to hold her)...but she is outgoing and fun in a small group. But when we go down to the play room where the other adoptive families are with their new children...she turns into a statue. She stands in one spot, and watches everything, but does not engage with the other children. So at church when we get back or in a crowd, she'll most likely go into statue mode.

The U.S. Consulate

Yesterday we had our appointment that is the last hurdle. If you adopt from China, your hold trip is scheduled around this appointment. On certain days they have an 8:30 and 10:00 appointment slot each for 12 potential adoptive families, so after a 20 minute bus ride, we met several families at the Consulate. We went up to the 5th floor for the consulate, went thru security, and walked in the door past an American Flag. It felt so great to see that flag! Anyway, we walked into a small room with a glass wall of 10 what looked like ticket counters...we sat and waited for our name to be called. When called, we presented our information to the agent who spent 5 minutes looking over everything and filling out forms and stamping things. Lots of stamping things in China. The agent told us everything looked fine and that the visa would be ready Thursday afternoon after 3:30...and then we were free to go.

So all in all, the consultate wasn't bad at all. Fortunately, our agency had helped us assemble all the necessary documents, so it really was a breeze. We took the bus ride back to the hotel, and tried to figure out how to the pass the time by walking around the island.

Red Couch Pictures

One thing Holt likes to do is take some group photos of the kids and the Holt families before people start to depart. Currently, there are four Holt families in Guangzhou, and we were the last to arrive, so Wednesday afternoon was picture time. First we took pictures of the four girls...from left to right we have Khloe Donner from Florida, Livvie Laessig from Wisconsin, Lori, and Leah Kemnetz from Illinois...all in their traditional Chinese outfits. Later we took a photo of all of the four families. It has been a blessing getting to know each of them, and we wish them the best.

Exit Meeting

After our pics, we had our last meeting with the Holt staff. They walked us each through how we will get home. To my surprise, everyone takes different paths home. Some fly from Guangzhou, some ride the train to Hong Kong...all kinds of options. We are riding the train to Hong Kong, and honestly, after the exit meeting, the train station at Guangzhou sounds pretty intimidating. I am honestly a little worried about everything going well there...with the five of us and all our bags. Please pray that it goes smoothly at the station. The one blessing is that we got an earlier train. Originally, we were scheduled to leave at 6pm, but now we are leaving out at noon on Friday and be to Hong Kong at 2pm. We have to go through customs on both sides, and then we take a shuttle to our hotel at the airport. If we have time, we would like to go into Hong Kong, but I'm not sure time will allow.

Rest of Wednesday

Wednesday evening, we were brave and us and another family tried the Thai restaurant again, this time without a guide. We survived. It was another great time...and Lori ate everything! Praise the Lord!

We ended the night in the traditional the Swan Room at the White Swan Hotel. Because of so many adoptive families, they have a 30x30 room with carpet filled with toys where all the families end up at night to let the kids play and tell each other's stories. What a blessing to hear God working in so many lives.

Tomorrow is our last full day...hooray! We miss Chloe and the boys so much! We get our Visa around 4:30 Thursday afternoon. So Thursday is packing day!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

China Update #12 - A Prayer Request

(From Jay)

Its 6:15 am Wednesday morning here in Guangzhou, and 4:15 Tuesday afternoon back home.

This morning, at 8:30 am here, 6:30 pm back home, we have our appointment with the US Consulate in's the last major hurdle while we are here.

It wouldn't be a big deal except for one thing. As of this week, they changed the process after 14 years of it staying the same. The families here this week had no warning, and are the first to go through the new process.

In the past, the Holt staff would go in with the family and take care of everything. As of this week, the Holt staff can no longer go in with the family. They will drop us off and walk in to the lobby with us, and then we are on our own. We anticipate no problems, but going without our escorts, and the new system does have me a touch nervous...but I'm confident everything will be fine. The major result of the change is that families get their child's visa a day earlier than in the past. Something that could allow us to come home a day early...except for the $350 ticket change fee per we will ride it out as planned. So are the other families. So please pray that all goes well at the consulate this morning. That we arrive on time, that all our paperwork be in order, and that everything proceeds smoothly, and that God may be glorified.

China Update #11

(From Jay)

Before coming, people warned us about the weird food choices we would encounter in China.

Tonight, our Holt group consisting of four families went out for our 'group dinner' at a local Thai restaurant located on the island. While looking over the menu, I had to take a moment to snap some photos of the choices we were reading in the menu. Enjoy the pics...and know that we did eat, and are getting pretty good with chopsticks, but we're not telling you what we picked!

By the way, the exchange rate for Yuan is about $1 USD is worth the same as 6.5 Yuan or RMB... therefore, the dinner choices from the menu pics were about $6 to $7 in USD.

China Update #10

(From Jay)

Thank God for a beautiful warm sunny day! Today was an off day...nothing to do but kill time. We had heard stories about a crazy market area about a 10 minute walk to the north, so we decided to be adventurous and leave the island and head out into Guangzhou to hang out with some locals.

After crossing the busy highway and canal on a series of pedestrian bridges, we made our way into a long market. Compared to the island, the market felt more like being in Beijing or the province. It was busy...lots of people wheeling and dealing their merchandise. Except the merchandise was all sorts of weird food tree fungus, seahorses, and varieties of bugs and beetles. It smelled horrible, we were very uncomfortable, and quickly moved on to see what else we could see.

Friends on the island told us that after experiencing the market, we needed to continue to work our way north and east and we would come upon a shopping street and a large town square. We wandered thru the most interesting streets we have ever walked. Little store fronts, no larger than a 10x10 after the next...people everywhere..all kinds of strange things being sold..including dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, fish and turtles...all types, shapes and sizes...and even old tiger paws...

We then rolled from an old fashioned Chinese Hutong Market type street to something picturesque of Times Square in New York City, with tons of modern shops and restaurants. We ate at McDonalds and walked around the mall which consisted of rows and rows of shops that were more like 10x10 booths. We haggled some shoes for Camille down to 25 Yuan (about $3 USD), and Annie took note of the nail prices for a manicure/pedicure of 10 and 25 Yuan...about $5 USD for both combined...which Annie said was a bargain.

We carefully made it back to the island and the hotel in one piece. Tomorrow, we head to the US Consulate appointment. Please pray that all of our paperwork goes smoothly!

China Update #9 - A Kiss for Ba Ba

(From Jay)

Hey everyone...we are still here in Guangzhou awaiting the US Consulate to issue a visa for Lori.

She is slowing getting more comfortable with all of us. She has started to laugh and play with Maddie and Annie. She is still very standoffish with me and Camille.

One challenge we have had with Lori is eating. At the orphanage, they told us the girl loved to eat...even stuffed her pockets with food. But since we have had her, she has hardly eaten anything! Everything we have tried to feed her has gotten a head-shaken no in response.

The only thing we have been able to get her to eat has been what we jokingly call her 'hash'. At the orphanage, she was still drinking formula some, so we began to mix some formula in a glass and breaking up a small piece of some sweet bread into the glass. We can get her to eat her hash once in the morning and once in the evening. Other than that, she protested all food. Its obvious that this was her little power trip. Eating is the only thing she could control, so she has been protesting. We know we will break through soon, but in the mean time, we are thrilled she likes to eat her hash.

This morning (Monday) she allowed me to feed her and dress her. But this time she got more involved eating and started grabbing the spoon and feeding herself. She followed it up with grabbing the glass with both hands and chugging what was left. You go girl! She followed it with giving her Ba Ba (daddy) a kiss for his great effort! Small breakthroughs...

We made it downstairs for our hotel breakfast (our only dependable meal of the day) and managed to get a photo pose out of Lori while we were eating breakfast.

We then made it back to the medical clinic to check her TB test. The clinic was NUTS! People everywhere. They were all seeking visas to the US and going thru the necessary medical screenings and immunizations. It was humbling to see and hear how desperate people are to come to America.

We made our way to the doctor who decided Lori needed an xray to make sure she was ok. So, then I stood in a long line at the cashier waiting to pay for our xray BEFORE we got it done. How bout that? It was 198 Yuan which was the equivalent of about $30. We got our xray, told it looked fine, and away we were.

While we are here there is lots of down time between appointments and meetings. Our agency included with our travel a couple inexpensive excursions to pass the time. Today (Monday), our group (consisting of us and three other families from the US), went to the XiangDiang Safari Park in southern Guangzhou. It would be the equivalent of a hybrid of our STL Zoo and Grant's Farm. It was virtually empty and in the off-season. We rode a tram like at Grant's farm for about 30-40 minutes through all kinds of animals...some in secluded areas and most running wild. Really great...animals everywhere, close and easy to see. We got off the tram and walked around a small area like Grant's farm. Instead of feeding the goats with bottles, we got to feed the giraffes with branches. We also got to see their crown jewel, their 12 pandas...which was really neat. Lori seemed to really enjoy the tram ride and the animals.

We also got to enjoy the public restrooms before we left...there is just no getting used to squatty-potties.

After returning to the hotel, we sat through a brief meeting with the Holt staff to go over our paperwork for the US Consulate. Three of the four families have their appointment tomorrow morning. We have our's on Wednesday morning. Lots of down time. I think we have figured out that we could have done all of this in less than 9 days...why they keep you here so long is crazy!

Tomorrow (Tuesday), we have an off day, and we hope to walk to the North into the local market where they sell all the weird stuff like bugs, snakes and seahorses. We will have to give an update for that on Tuesday night.

God Bless You Guys! Please continue to pray for Lori's transition!